Worn by the Russian Army from 1786 to 1796, the Potemkin uniform was one of the most bizarre developments in military fashion.

In 1786, Empress Catherine the Great ordered a universal uniform for the whole of the Russian Army. The uniform, though tremendously ugly, was actually quite practical- contrary to contemporary trends in European military costume. The jacket, known as a Kurtka, fit loosely, and closed entirely down the breast. The trousers, an anomaly in and of themselves, were reinforced with leather, mimicking the appearance of leather boots. Capping it all off was a fur-crested leather helmet, worn in lieu of the cocked hat or metal-fronted mitre.

The uniform was abolished by Paul I upon ascending the throne in 1796, and replaced with a more traditional, Prussian-inspired costume.


  • Knoetel, Richard and Herbert Knoetel. Uniforms of the World, trans. Roland G. Ball (Arms and Armour, 1983)
  • Martin, Paul. “War of the French Revolution and the Coalitions, 1792-1803” in Battledress, ed. I.T. Schick (Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1978)

Image Credits:

A. “Russischer Grenadier”, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection.

B. “Russische Infanterie und Jager” by Richard Knoetel

C. “Subaltern, Potemkin Regiment, 1790-92,” Unknown source.

B. "Potemkin Corps," from Mollo and Macgregor’s Uniforms of the Imperial Russian Army.

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